What We Talk About When We Talk About Author-Editor Relationships: Collaboration and Intention in the Production of Twentieth-Century Literary Texts


This article is an examination of the author–editor relationship as it relates to the production of literary texts in the twentieth century. It begins by rejecting the dominance of the false romantic ontology in literary and textual criticism, which has obscured the production of texts and the editor’s role therein. The invisibility of the editor is then connected to editing in practice and contemporary research on editing studies. Gaps in the research reveal the need for further examination into author–editor relationships in order add nuance to how autonomy functions within them, and to develop an ontology of collaboration in textual production. This is done using qualitative and historical research methods to examine a chosen historical case: Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish. The study’s analysis of the case is framed by field theory and a sociology of culture, which underpin the study’s proposed model of the field of literary authors and editors. The field’s scope is restricted to Anglo-American literary textual production between the 1940s-1980s and focuses on the relation between symbolic and cultural capital and the position of influence of authors and editors in the literary field. The historical case of Carver and Lish is used to examine the application of the field in textual production in practice. Beginning with Carver’s pre-Lish production and tracing their collaboration through to its dissolution, the study is able to trace the effects of their changing positions in the field on their collaboration and textual production, and from this, draw conclusions about the nature of authors’ negotiations between their literary and social intentions. The analysis closes with a discussion of Lish’s qualities in relation to the wider field of editors. The article concludes that textual production, regardless of the author’s possession of cultural capital, is inherently social and collaborative, though the extent and source of editorial intervention may vary. It, therefore, calls for the death of the romantic author and a new approach to literary and textual criticism. Finally, it suggests further areas for research, including other factors such as race/ethnicity or gender, which may also influence authorial negotiations with editors and their textual production. Most importantly, the underlying power structures of the literary field revealed in this article are evidence that the literary canon must be reconsidered.


Textual production, Editing, Literary criticism, Authorship

How to Cite

Hair, E., (2021) “What We Talk About When We Talk About Author-Editor Relationships: Collaboration and Intention in the Production of Twentieth-Century Literary Texts”, Interscript 4(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.2398-4732.007







Emma Hair (University College London)





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This article has been peer reviewed.

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